Vincent Ho Chak-yiu booted home his 400th winner at Sha Tin on Sunday but in keeping with the focus that has seen him become Hong Kong’s leading local jockey, the 31-year-old was quick to turn to the task ahead.
Ho piloted Jimmy Ting Koon-ho’s Seasons Bliss to victory to ring up the milestone, tasting success for the first time since September 22 and for just the fourth time across the first 11 meetings.
“It’s been a while, right? This season has been very slow. I’ve just got to keep this up now, get on some good rides and do better than last season,” Ho said.
It’s far from an insignificant milestone for Ho, who sits just 13 winners behind the most successful active local jockey, Matthew Chadwick.
It seems only a matter of time before he goes past Chadwick and the second-most decorated local jockey of all time Howard Cheung Yue-tin (436 victories), which will leave him second only to the legendary Tony Cruz (946) on the list of locals.
Ho unleashed Seasons Bliss down the middle of the track to run down long-time leader Whizz Kid in the Class Four Grand Seiko Excellent Handicap (1,200m), with the four-year-old breaking his maiden at start five after going down twice as favourite last season.
“His last race last season was very disappointing so I let him rest and early this season his form was not coming along so well, so he needed more time. After I tried blinkers his form became better so that’s why I put the blinkers on this time,” Ting said. “I think he will still improve, he’s not in top form and he will improve much more after this race.”
Ting completed his fourth double of the season later on the card, with My Sugar saluting in the Class Three Corum Excellent Handicap (1,400m) under a masterful front-running ride from Zac Purton.
“He’s a nice horse. I think he can handle Class Two, but 1,400m might be difficult for him – Class Two 1,600m he is OK,” Ting said.
Man’s high hopes for Trillion Win
Manfred Man Ka-leung hopes Trillion Win can progress to Group company after his talented sprinter secured back-to-back victories in the Class Two Piaget Excellent Handicap (1,200m).
The five-year-old son of Proisir was around the mark in most of his seven runs in his debut Hong Kong campaign but he looks to have gone to another level this season.
Trillion Win came out on top in a hot race at Sha Tin on Sunday, beating the likes of Lucky More, Fantastic Treasure, Fantastic Way and California Rad to continue his progression.
He’s one of only two Class Two horses in Man’s yard (E Star is the other) and the veteran trainer has his fingers crossed he can progress further than that.
“He’s doing very well, he’s the best horse in my stable at the moment,” Man said. “The jockey [Alexis Badel] rode him very smart, he stayed behind the leader and didn’t move until the last 200m and then he came out and sprinted home. That allowed him to do his best. I hope [he can be a Group horse].”
Fantastic Treasure certainly lost no admirers with his fast-finishing third first-up, David Hayes’ rising star reiterating his status as the horse to beat in the Classic Series at this early stage.
Celestial Power irons out his quirks
Frankie Lor Fu-chuen believes he’s found the key to getting the best out of Celestial Power, who secured his third Hong Kong victory in the Class Two Parmigiani Fleurier Excellent Handicap (1,800m) at Sha Tin.
After showing promise early last campaign, Lor can pinpoint the Classic Mile as the moment things started to go wrong, but after spending some time ironing out his quirks – and with natural maturity – the five-year-old showed what he was capable of on Sunday.
“Unfortunately last season, I think it was the Classic Mile, he jumped really slow and then he started to develop some bad habits in the gates,” Lor said. “We needed to let him learn and now it’s a little bit better.
“I was worried about this race because [there was no leader] but he dropped behind a horse, which was good.”
The way Celestial Power came from towards the tail of the field to overhaul early leader Zebrowski in the shadows of the post gives the trainer confidence he can still progress higher in the ratings.
“I think in Class Two he will still get the chance to win again,” he said. “I think 1,800m should be his best distance but where we go depends on the programme.”
Murphy says he’s coming to Hong Kong
Oisin Murphy was crowned British Champion Jockey for a third year in a row after Saturday’s British Champions Day meeting and the 26-year-old confirmed he intends to compete at the Longines Hong Kong International Races in December.
The star Irishman has been a regular visitor to Hong Kong over the journey, including a short-term stint during the 2016-17 campaign, but he missed last year’s feature meeting as he was waiting out a three-month ban from French authorities after testing positive to cocaine.
Murphy, who had 153 winners and beat William Buick by two, opened up about his plans for the winter months after securing his third title.
“We still have a lot of maidens to run in the next two weeks or so and then the Breeders’ Cup, followed by the Hong Kong International [Races], Bahrain, Saudi – all the big meetings will be coming up into the spring of next year,” he said. “So I’ll try to keep busy and hopefully find some more fast horses to line up next season.”
Meanwhile, Champion Stakes runner-up Dubai Honour is also a good chance of making the trip to Hong Kong after his bold second to Sealiway in Saturday’s Group One.
If he were to come, the William Haggas-trained three-year-old would most likely contest the HK$30 million Hong Kong Cup (2,000m).